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Congress once again pushes Hours of Service rule

Fatigue among truckers is a known problem yet legislators and the federal government have yet to come to resolution on an Hours of Service rule.

Southern California residents know that they face some of the nation’s toughest traffic congestion and problems. While one problem is simply the sheer number of vehicles on the road, other problems are related to dangers that can or should be controllable. People who choose to drive after drinking or while texting, for example, pose serious risk to innocent motorists and passengers alike. Similarly, fatigue among truck drivers has long been a recognized hazard.

FMCSA effort to curb trucker fatigue

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted new guidelines called the Hours of Service rule at the end of 2011 to address issue of fatigue among truckers. The FMCSA outlined specific requirements for when commercial drivers must take breaks, how long those breaks should be and how many driving hours would be allowed in a seven-day period by a single driver.

The Hours of Service rule became effective in February of 2012 and all commercial carriers and drivers were to be in full compliance by July of 2013.

Controversy surrounds new rule

The rules were met with controversy and in December of 2014, some elements of the rule were put on hold pending review by Congress. Specifically, the cap on the number of weekly hours that a single driver may operate a vehicle was put into question. In addition, the new rule mandated that for every 34-hour period, a driver must have two rest periods between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

In 2014, the FMCSA initiated a study to gather more data with which Congress could use to make a decision about these elements of the Hours of Service rule. In both 2014 and 2015, all eyes were on Congress for a ruling on the topic but it never came. Now, a third postponement has occurred.

The earliest that Congress will now review the matter is after the upcoming presidential election. For now, the 2014 suspension remains in effect.

Review of break time rule also requested

In addition to the 34-hour rest period, one particular company has asked for a review of what can be considered break time. Drivers are mandated to have a 30-minute break period for every eight hours of drive time. In addition to rest, physical activity is encouraged during this time. Again, the goal is to combat fatigue.

Operators who drive relatively short distances and then stop to unload are not subject to long, fatiguing hours on the road like their long-distance counterparts. In addition, they get regular physical activity via their unloading activities. A request has been made for the FMCSA to consider the time spent unloading as break time for these reasons.

Keeping Californians safe

While the nation waits for Congress to rule on the Hours of Service, California residents need to know they are protected. If an accident involving a large commercial truck happens, victims should contact an attorney for help in pursuing appropriate compensation.

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